I guess my real question would be, is that is there any reasonable way to reduce the effect of the gas tube on the barrel? I have poked around and not found a lot of info. I would think that free floating the hand guard and reducing the effects of the gas tube might really help.
That ought to help. You can built a fine DMR on the AK platform. Take for instance the Romanian PSL, Iraqi Tabuk, and Yugo M-76. The one thing that bugs me is when people speak of "Dragunov clones" when they're simply DMR AK's, not Dragunovs.
Real Dragunovs (that is, the Russian SVD and Tigr, Chinese type 79/NDM-86 and type 85, and Iraqi Al-Qadesih) are have completely different actions than any AK. They have a short stroke system, much less massive gas piston, and a lightweight op rod that is separate from the bolt carrier. These are fundamental differences, and no amount of modification will turn a Kalashnikov action into a Dragunov. Apples and oranges.